Health Benefits of Breastfeeding for Both Mom and Baby

Health Benefits of Breastfeeding for Both Mom and Baby

Expecting and new moms are bombarded with information about all the benefits breastfeeding holds over formula. But this is a very personal decision, one that should be informed by facts and not excessive opinion. Before you make this decision, let’s go through the benefits that breastfeeding can have for both you and your baby. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and continuing even once solid foods have been introduced, until the baby is at least 1 year or until both mom and baby are ready to stop breastfeeding. The World Health Organization recommends starting as early as one hour after birth for the greatest benefits.

Breastfeeding is not always a possibility and that is OK

Breastfeeding has so many benefits for both mom and baby but it can also be difficult for new moms. It can come with a lot of pressure to produce milk for your baby and may lead to anxiety, perhaps even postpartum depression.

For moms who are struggling with breastfeeding, lactational consultants can be very helpful in addition to making sure you are eating at least 450 to 500 extra calories in balanced meals and snacks. Your OBGYN may also prescribe supplements like gummies or lactational cookies to help with breast milk production. 

However, some women are simply not able to produce a lot of breast milk. When that is the case, their OBGYN may grow concerned that the baby’s nutritional needs are not being met and will suggest formula as a supplement. Mother’s can still continue trying to breastfeed while using formula to ensure the baby is getting enough nutrients. 

The mental health of a breastfeeding mother is very important. If breastfeeding is causing anxiety and depression for her, that risk is not worth the benefits of breastfeeding. We never want to be putting unrealistic expectations or unnecessary pressure on mothers. 

How breastfeeding benefits your baby

Human breast milk has been called “a living fluid” because of its ability to adapt to a baby’s needs. Unlike formula, the nutritional content of breast milk changes from one feeding to the next, ensuring the baby is getting the nutrients he or she needs to grow. Breast milk contains antibodies, vitamins, fat, lactose, and minerals and offers the following benefits for the baby. 

Breastfeeding helps the baby with digestion

Babies that are breastfed tend to have lower rates of nausea, vomiting, constipation, colic, gas, and other feeding-related problems. Breast milk has a well-balanced nutritional profile that aids in digestion for newborns. 

Breast milk is also easier to digest than formula. Formula contains equal parts whey and casein (two types of protein) while breast milk has a higher level of whey during a baby’s first 6 months. Whey is easier and faster to digest than casein, making it gentler on a newborn’s stomach.

Breastfeeding helps to treat and prevent infection and disease

A mother’s body produces immunoglobulins that the baby is able to get through breast milk. Immunoglobulins, also known as antibodies, are large proteins that the body’s immune system uses to neutralize pathogens like bacteria and viruses. If a baby falls ill, these help to fight the infection as a newborn’s immune system is not fully developed and continues to rely on the mother’s defenses in addition to its own.

The milk has anti-inflammatory capabilities in addition to the antibodies that help to protect the baby both short and long-term. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of obesity, leukemia, ear infections, and type 1 and 2 diabetes. Breastfed babies also have a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a syndrome that is characterized by a baby’s unexplained and sudden death, usually while sleeping. 

How breastfeeding benefits new moms

The benefits of breastfeeding extend far beyond the baby’s health as it can not only help to foster a bond between mother and child but also helps to improve the mother’s health. 

Breastfeeding fosters a mother-child bond

Researchers are unsure exactly which factor of breastfeeding creates a mother-child bond, but they have some ideas. They’ve hypothesized  the emotional facilitation between mother and child can be attributed to breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact, or some combination of both. Perhaps it’s the baby’s positioning when nursing which creates an opportunity for eye contact between mother and child. Either way, breastfeeding creates an undeniable bond between mother and child.

Breastfeeding can reduce postpartum bleeding

In the first few days postpartum as the uterus slowly shrinks back to its normal size, new moms may experience some discomfort, cramping, and bleeding. Breastfeeding can help by speeding up the rate at which the uterus shrinks back to its pre-pregnancy size. Nursing causes the brain to release oxytocin, a hormone responsible for uterus contractions and decreased bleeding.

Breastfeeding can help with postpartum weight loss

Breastfeeding can help women hoping to return to their pre-baby body shed the baby weight. It takes about 500 calories a day to breastfeed your baby, as your body is constantly making milk and burning extra calories.

We’re not just talking a few extra pounds. A study of over 2,000 women showed that those who exclusively breastfed for at least the first 3 months were more likely to return to their pre-pregnancy body mass index compared to women who did not breastfeed or partially breastfed. 

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of certain diseases

Breastfeeding produces a lot of protective health benefits for the mom. Generally, in breastfeeding, your hormones stay consistent rather than fluctuating throughout the month. That consistency has both short and long-term effects on the body. For example, breastfeeding lowers a woman’s life-long exposure to the hormone estrogen, which is linked to an increased risk of ovarian and breast cancers. Women who breastfeed have lower rates of breast and ovarian cancer, in addition to lower rates of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

How long should mothers breastfeed?

In an ideal world, women would exclusively breastfeed for one year. But, we tell our patients that any amount of time is great. If you can make it to one year, that’s great but even if you can do six, or three months, any amount of breastfeeding is incredibly beneficial for mom and baby. 

At around four to six months, parents should slowly introduce solid food to the baby. By this age, infants have generally developed the motor skills to swallow food and not spit them out.

Why Acne During Pregnancy Is Common and How to Get Rid of It

Why Acne During Pregnancy Is Common and How to Get Rid of It

Everyone talks about the glow that comes with pregnancy but for many, the increase in oil secretion can cause breakouts, even in women who haven’t had acne for years. There’s no culprit that we can blame for acne during pregnancy, but dermatologists project that these breakouts are caused by the same thing that causes them during teenage years: hormones. Specifically, a hormone called androgens. If you are breaking out during your pregnancy, here’s what you may want to know about how long it will last, why it happens, and how to safely treat it. 

When is pregnancy acne most common?

Acne may arise at any point during pregnancy since androgen levels and the resulting increased oil production increase early on in pregnancy. Androgen levels are particularly high during your third trimester so expect that if you are dealing with pregnancy acne that it will be especially bad during this period. Androgens actually help get the cervix ready for labor which is why they increase as you near full term. 

The severity of pregnancy acne will vary from person to person. It is, however, more common among women who had acne before becoming pregnant. While having a previous history of acne is the strongest risk factor for pregnancy acne, the underlying causes of acne flare-ups during pregnancy have not been definitively determined. 

There are other risk factors besides the increase in androgens that can make you a likely target for pregnancy acne. The immune system plays a part in fighting off acne and during pregnancy, a woman’s immune system is constantly changing and somewhat suppressed. Additionally, the stress that often accompanies pregnancy can increase levels of stress hormones and trigger breakouts or worsen existing acne. 

How to safely treat pregnancy acne

If you are looking to treat pregnancy acne, discuss treatment options with your OBGYN, even if they are just over-the-counter products. Many skincare products contain chemicals that can be absorbed into the body and harm your baby. Your OBGYN might offer these as safe alternatives:

  • Antibiotics such as clindamycin, which can kill bacteria that causes acne.
  • Sulfur-based washes, which often help with skin inflammation.
  • Azelaic acid, which is a mild anti-inflammatory acid that can reduce swelling and redness. 

But always check with your OBGYN before making any health changes during pregnancy, even with things as seemingly little as skincare. 

There’s no definitive timeline for when pregnancy acne will clear up but as the hormones and immune system function returns to normal, the acne will also resolve if it did not exist prior to pregnancy.

How Often You Should Get Tested for STIs

How Often You Should Get Tested for STIs

No matter your relationship status, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) should be on everyone’s health radar. STI rates are higher than ever before in the US, and both chlamydia and gonorrhea have the potential of becoming antibiotic-resistant. While there may be stigmas surrounding STIs that need to be banished, it is important that you are knowledgeable about STIs, their prevalence, and how they can affect you. Too few women are seeking out screening for sexually transmitted diseases

You should not feel ashamed about your sexual activity or STI status, but rather you should take responsibility for your health and safety and that of your sexual partners. The answer to how often you should get tested for STIs may surprise you. 

Getting Tested for STIs

Because STIs are so common, it’s a safe bet to get tested once a year, even if you’re practicing safe sex and using protection. Your doctor may not automatically test you at every appointment so make sure to ask about it if they don’t offer it. 

Here are some testing recommendations for prominent STIs:

STI Testing for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia

  • If you have HIV.
  • If you are sexually active and at risk for STIs, which can include new or multiple sexual partners.

Testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia is done using a cervical swab or a urine test which is then taken to a lab and analyzed. 

STI Testing for Hepatitis, Syphilis, and HIV

While these infections are not as prevalent, you should still get tested for them annually. These are checked with a blood test.

STI Testing for HPV

Certain types of HPV can develop into cervical cancer while other types of the virus can manifest as genital warts. Many people that are diagnosed with HPV in their lives never develop symptoms and the virus typically leaves the body within two years. 

Women may be tested for HPV through a Pap smear or an HPV test. If your pap smear shows abnormal results, your doctor will likely recommend further testing and your doctor may check your cervix for HPV or cancerous cells. 

You should get tested for HPV every few years if you have had an abnormal pap smear in the past. 

STI Testing for Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a bit harder to test for because there are no concrete tests that can be done to detect genital herpes. A culture of a genital sore may be taken but usually only when you have symptoms. A blood test may be able to help detect a herpes outbreak, but the results are often inconclusive because it will not show if you had exposure to oral or genital herpes. 

The dedicated health professionals at Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care want to restore your peace of mind. If you or a loved one has any questions about STIs or are looking to get treated for them, please contact us today.

Your Questions About Endometriosis Answered

Your Questions About Endometriosis Answered

Women are no strangers to the different ways that menstruation can affect life. For many women, this looks like a monthly bout of bloating, cramps, and occasional mood swings. But if you have endometriosis, symptoms can be far more severe and can halt daily life, leaving you miserable and in pain. If you think you may have endometriosis, you are likely filled with questions: What causes it? What are all of the symptoms of this condition? What are my treatment options? Not to worry, we have answers to the most commonly asked questions about endometriosis and treatment options.

What is Endometriosis?

The inner layer of the uterus is lined with a tissue that is called the endometrium. During menstruation, the tissue grows thicker as the tiny blood vessels multiply to prepare for a fertilized egg. If pregnancy does not occur, the tissue breaks down and the blood exits the body through menstruation. 

Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrium travels outside the uterus and surrounds other reproductive organs, most commonly the ovaries and the fallopian tubes, or it attaches itself to other tissues in the pelvis. As the endometrium is displaced from the uterus, the extra blood and tissue have no way to exit the body which, in turn, can cause cysts to form on the ovaries. For many women that are diagnosed with endometriosis, this means severe pain during their menstrual cycle. 

Endometriosis occurs in about 1 in 10 women of reproductive age. Most often, it is diagnosed in women who are in their 30s and 40s. 

What Causes Endometriosis?

The cause of endometriosis is unknown. However, endometriosis is a condition more likely to develop in women who have other family members who have been diagnosed with endometriosis, women who have undergone a cesarean, and women who have fewer than 25 days between menstrual cycles. 

Endometriosis is diagnosed first by a physical exam, including a pelvic exam performed by your OBGYN. However, the only way to truly tell if a woman has endometriosis is through a surgical procedure called laparoscopy. Sometimes a bit of tissue will be removed during this procedure in a process called a biopsy. 

What Are The Symptoms of Endometriosis?

Some women with endometriosis do not show symptoms, however, those who do show symptoms experience them right before their period. The most common symptom of endometriosis is chronic (long-term) pain in the pelvic region. Endometriosis can also cause pain during sexual intercourse. Endometriosis can also affect the bowel and bladder causing pain during bowel movements or urination, respectively. Heavy menstrual bleeding is another common symptom of endometriosis. Symptoms can be severe enough that they disrupt daily life and can include

  • Heavy periods
  • Severe lower back pain
  • Intense cramps
  • Intense stabbing pains
  • Severe migraines
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Pain during urination and/or bowel movements
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

Endometriosis can also make it difficult to get pregnant. Almost 40% of women with infertility have endometriosis. The inflammation caused by endometriosis can damage the sperm or egg or interfere with their movement through the fallopian tubes and uterus. In more severe cases of endometriosis, the fallopian tubes may be blocked by adhesions or scar tissue. 

What Are the Treatment Options for Endometriosis?

Treatment for endometriosis will depend on the severity of the condition, the symptoms the patient experiences, and whether or not the patient plans to get pregnant. Endometriosis may be treated with medication, surgery, or both. 

If you or someone you love are suffering from endometriosis, you don’t have to go it alone. The staff at Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care is knowledgeable when it comes to this common condition and we understand what you’re going through. Contact us to schedule an appointment and find the best course of action for you.

What You Need to Know Before Getting an IUD

What You Need to Know Before Getting an IUD

IUDs or intrauterine devices are one of the most popular methods of birth control among women, particularly in recent years. Many women like that it offers many benefits that the pill cannot: it is a “set it and forget it” method of birth control, involving a one-time payment, and the patient does not have to remember to take a pill at the same time on a daily basis. If you are considering getting an IUD, there are a few things you should know before having it inserted

What is an IUD?

An IUD is a small, flexible, T-shaped plastic device that is inserted into the uterus by a healthcare professional. There are five brands of IUD divided into two different types:

  • Copper IUDs (a.k.a. ParaGard)
  • Hormonal IUDs (include Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla)

Hormonal IUDs work by using the hormone progestin to thicken cervical mucus which blocks sperm. Copper IUDs are wrapped in a small bit of copper, are nonhormonal, and act as spermicide, damaging sperm mobility and viability. The body’s response to the IUD varies from person to person; for some, ovulation is prevented too while for others, it is not. Generally, they all work by preventing sperm from getting to the egg. 

The main difference between the two types of IUDs is how long you can keep them in without benign replaced. ParaGard can remain in place for up to 12 years while the Mirena and Liletta can for six years, Kyleena for five years, and Skyla for three years.

IUDs are ranked for the same effectiveness at preventing pregnancy as getting your tubes tied but they do not impact your future fertility. The IUD has a 99% rate of effectiveness, largely because, unlike the pill, it is not something you can forget to take, therefore, there is no user error involved. 

How is an IUD inserted? Is it painful?

In the insertion process, the cervix is opened and the IUD is placed into the uterus. While the insertion process can be slightly painful, the procedure generally takes just a few minutes. You may experience cramping for about 24 to 48 hours after the procedure as this is a common response among women after an IUD is inserted.

Will an IUD affect my period?

Whether or not your period alters, depends on the type of IUD you choose. Hormonal IUDs tend to make periods lighter and shorter and lessen cramps. IUDs may instead cause a heavier period, but this generally fades over time. Every woman reacts differently but if you are concerned about how you may react to an IUD, you should discuss this with your OBGYN during your consultation appointment

What are the pros and cons of an IUD?

In addition to the advantages previously mentioned, IUDs have long-lasting effects but can be reversed simply by removing the IUD. What makes the IUD appealing to many is that you visit an office once to have it inserted then you don’t have to remember on a daily basis to take a pill. It is the most effective but also reversible form of contraception. 

The biggest disadvantage of IUDs is the discomfort they can cause women. There are a wide array of side effects that can come along with them including abdominal or pelvic pain, nausea, vomiting, migraines, headaches, spotting or irregular bleeding, and breast tenderness. The side effects vary depending on which type of IUD you get. 

This does not typically happen but there is a slim chance your IUD could fall out, most commonly during a period in the first three months. Your OBGYN may recommend that you check to feel for the IUD string occasionally but never pull it out. If your IUD does become dislodged, see your OBGYN ASAP to have it reinserted.

Unexpected Side Effects of Pregnancy & How to Handle Them

Unexpected Side Effects of Pregnancy & How to Handle Them

We have not been shy about all the things that pregnancy brings into your life, not only a beautiful new baby, but also the side effects that come with their growth, development, and arrival. Some women deal with morning sickness, others have food aversions, both symptoms that some scientists say potentially protect the developing baby from being exposed to food-borne illnesses. There are, however, many other symptoms that you may experience during pregnancy that aren’t pretty and seem to have no explanation. We find that in situations like these, knowing beforehand makes the situations all the better. 

Overactive Salivary Glands

In addition to morning sickness, your mouth will start to produce saliva in overdrive. Typically, the salivary glands produce about 400 ml to 1 liter of saliva on a daily basis. That sounds like a lot, but it goes relatively unnoticed because you are constantly swallowing throughout the day. During pregnancy, however, women produce more saliva because of increased saliva production, decreased swallowing, or a combination of both.

Experts don’t have a definite reason for this happening but attribute it to hormonal changes. You can ease this symptom by chewing gum, drinking water, sucking on a mint, and/or frequently brushing your teeth. 

The Frequent Urge to Pee

As a result of a growing fetus pushing on your bladder, increased blood volume, and hormonal changes, pregnant women will frequently feel the urge to urinate. Not only will you find yourself running to the bathroom more often, but you may also notice that you leak a bit when you sneeze, cough, or laugh. It is an unexpected but unavoidable side effect of pregnancy as the mother’s pelvic floor weakens. Your body is circulating 25% more fluid during pregnancy so it is important that you are not holding it and are allowing yourself plenty of bathroom breaks in your day. 

Varicose Veins & Burst Capillaries

Varicose veins are swollen veins that appear near the surface of your skin. They may appear purple or blue and often in the legs due to several different factors: your growing baby adding increased weight and pressure on your legs and the circulation in your legs growing weaker. 

Varicose veins typically cause little to no discomfort and are resolved upon giving birth. Pregnant women may also experience hemorrhoids which are varicose veins that occur in the rectum. 

Similarly, pregnancy increases the risk of developing broken blood vessels which typically fade after giving birth.

Breakouts

Around week six of pregnancy, most women experience a surge in fluid retention and progesterone which causes an increase in sebum production, both of which can cause breakouts. And unfortunately, because of pregnancy, options for battling acne are relatively limited because of the active ingredients that can be harmful to the fetus. If you are struggling with acne during pregnancy, speak with your OBGYN and they should be able to give you recommendations of treatments. 

Excessive Sweating

Due to fluctuating levels of estrogen during pregnancy, you will probably find out that early on, you sweat a lot more than usual. You may also find that your sweat smells different than it ever has before. Changing hormones and an increase in blood flow can slightly raise the body temperature soon after you become pregnant which can make the woman feel hot and cause her to sweat more as her body attempts to cool her down. This is one of the first signs that signal pregnancy for many women

There are a couple of things you can do to counteract increased sweating during pregnancy: exfoliate your armpits frequently using a scrub or by shaving. Keep a deodorant in your purse to be easily accessible to you. 

The Dandruff

Dandruff can be a painful condition for some so dealing with it in addition to all the other side effects that come with pregnancy can be overwhelming. Many people associate dandruff with hygiene issues and not showering enough. However, dandruff is rarely the result of poor hygiene and more often the process of shedding dead skin cells to make way for new cells. It’s a completely natural process but when the process is faster, the scalp gets covered with flakes. 

Often dandruff becomes more of an issue during pregnancy for a variety of reasons. The skin often becomes more sensitive during pregnancy and can be irritated by the products you previously had no trouble with. As a result, changing up your hair care routine during pregnancy may be a good idea. 

 

Before looking for medical solutions to these side effects or others, check with your doctor. 

Ingredients in Beauty Products You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

Ingredients in Beauty Products You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

As people become more and more aware of the toxic ingredients often included in beauty products, making sure you know what is going into your body becomes even more important during pregnancy. We understand that it can be hard to give up a foundation, mascara, or quality skincare item that you’ve been using for years particularly when natural products just don’t seem to compare. 

You’ve probably even convinced yourself that the parabens and silicones that you’re putting on your skin don’t pose any imminent danger in the short-term. But now that your choices affect the baby too, you may want to take another look at that ingredients list and educate yourself to make sure none are toxic to his or her health. Here are some ingredients that are commonly found in beauty products that you should be aware of and avoid during pregnancy.

Artificial Fragrances

Fragrances are generally made of harmful chemicals that have been linked to nervous system issues and cancer and shorter-term effects like redness and irritation on the applied area. Some companies try to hide the fact that fragrances are included by using terms like perfume, parfum, or even flavor (for more information, check out the FDA’s guidelines on fragrances in cosmetics). Most fragrance-free products are labeled as such – although some that say “unscented” contain fragrances – so opt for these options when searching for makeup, skincare, or hair care products. 

BPA

You are probably aware that you aren’t supposed to microwave food in plastic dishes because the BPA from the plastic can seep into the food when heated. But did you know that BPA can infiltrate into whatever is being contained by it. This highly unstable chemical that is most commonly used in plastics can disrupt the endocrine system leading to breast/prostate cancer, infertility, heart disease, and diabetes. Fetuses that have been exposed to BPA have been linked to developmental issues, obesity, and behavioral problems.

Formaldehyde

For years, connections between exposure to formaldehyde and reproductive issues were unfounded and inconclusive. But in recent review, there has been much more evaluative evidence of an association between formaldehyde exposure and adverse reproductive and developmental effects. The chemical is a classified carcinogen and ubiquitous environmental contaminant that’s been linked to cancer as well as other nervous system issues like trouble breathing, respiratory irritations, chest pain, and coughing. 

Formaldehyde is often found in some hair-straightening products and in nail polishes. During pregnancy, a trip to the salon is okay every now and then but make an effort to find a well-ventilated salon as the presence of this chemical puts your body, your baby, and salon workers at risk. If you choose to do your own nails, look for nail polishes labeled 3-free and 5-free as they don’t contain this chemical. 

Parabens

Parabens are a commonly used preservative that helps to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria in all kinds of beauty products including shampoos, soaps, deodorants, makeup, and skincare. The FDA says that studies have not yet shown definitive proof that parabens are harmful to health. However, the skin can absorb parabens in lotions and cleansers and moisturizers where it then enters the bloodstream and can harm the baby. Some research has shown that exposure to parabens during pregnancy may increase the baby’s likelihood of increased weight gain in infancy and obesity in adulthood. 

Hydroquinone

You’ll find this skin-lightening agent in brightening serums and creams used to treat conditions like hyperpigmentation and melasma. This is a product you should avoid using till after the baby is born because studies have shown that 45% of hydroquinone is absorbed by the skin after using it in a topical product. While no studies have shown that this has a direct effect on the fetus, too much of the chemical soaks into your bloodstream for comfort. Instead, to help prevent dark spots and discoloration during pregnancy use sunscreen…religiously!

Retinoids

Retinoids are frequently found in prescription acne and anti-aging medications like Retin-A and Accutane and have proven to be connected to an increased risk of birth defects in developing babies. We warn patients not to get pregnant if they are on these medications but if you do get pregnant, stop taking retinoids immediately. 

Sulfate

You’ve probably heard many recommendations to steer clear of shampoos and soaps with sulfates, a chemical that acts as a foaming agent. Prolonged exposure to sulfates can cause issues with the nervous system and kidney and liver function. Short-term, if ingested, sulfates can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. 

Phthalates

This ingredient is used to help stabilize the formulas of many moisturizers, soaps, and deodorants. But it has also been linked to liver, kidney, lung, and reproductive issues. Parabens and phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) that affect the body’s levels of reproductive hormones like estrogen and testosterone. Researchers have made connections between EDC exposure and preterm birth and hypospadias, a birth defect in the male reproductive tract in which the penis doesn’t form normally during pregnancy. Avoid all products with ingredients ending in -phthalate. 

Our intention with this article isn’t to scare you but rather to be more aware of what you are putting in and on your body whether you’re pregnant or not. If you ever have questions about the safety of a product, ask your OBGYN or PCP if it’s safe for use.

What to Expect in the First Few Months After Giving Birth

What to Expect in the First Few Months After Giving Birth

Before, during, and after pregnancy, friends, family, and random internet sources alike will try to tell you what is “normal” and what isn’t. It can leave you feeling really confused as to why your experience doesn’t compare to what’s “normal.” Even after giving birth, you’ll hear statements like “You’ll heal in no time” even though, for many women, the post-partum period can be much more complicated than that would suggest. Here’s what you should know about the first few months after giving birth, also frequently referred to as the “fourth trimester.” 

Your Pelvic Floor Muscles May Be Weakened

Pregnancy puts a lot of strain on the pelvic floor muscles as they have to support the weight of the baby. In the first few days after giving birth, you may find that you can’t make it to the toilet before urinating. This is called incontinence and it usually goes away as your pelvic muscles become stronger. You may also find that you feel pain or burning when you urinate or you have trouble urinating. Soaking in a warm bath can help to relieve these issues and if that doesn’t help, speak to your OBGYN.

They will need adequate time to recuperate. In addition to giving your body time to heal, you should also eat a diet filled with nutritious, easy-to-digest foods and spend time off your feet, sleeping when the baby sleeps. That gives your hormones and body time to regulate and transition into restorative mode. There are exercises you can do that will strengthen those muscles but the best thing to do in the early days is rest.

You May Experience A Lot of Bleeding

Even if you had a vaginal birth with no tearing, your body has undergone a massive undertaking by building a human, pushing said human out, and producing the nutritional requirements for the newborn through breastfeeding. As a result of this process, you may experience bleeding in the days and maybe weeks after giving birth. 

Following birth, you will most likely have to wear at least a hospital-grade pad at first and then a regular pad as the bleeding lightens. You may find that you bleed more after bringing the baby home because you are on your feet and moving around more. Try to stay off your feet as much as possible. After about 10 days, you should start to see less blood. You may experience light bleeding or spotting for up to 6 weeks after delivery.

You may experience pain in your breast

If you are breastfeeding, it is likely that you will experience some nipple pain in the first few days, especially if your nipples crack. In this case, you should ask your OBGYN to help you make sure your baby is latching properly. He or she should also be able to recommend a cream that you can put on your nipples. You should also massage breast milk onto your nipples after breastfeeding and let it air dry.

In addition to pain in your nipples as a result of breastfeeding, your breasts will also become engorged as they start to fill with milk. It usually happens a few days after giving birth and can leave your breasts feeling tender and sore. The discomfort generally goes away once you start regularly breastfeeding. If you’ve chosen not to breastfeed, this feeling may last until your breasts stop making milk, usually taking a few days. 

You can relieve this feeling of discomfort by trying not to miss a feeding or going a long time between feedings particularly during the night. Before you breastfeed your baby, express a small amount of milk from your breast either by hand or using a breast pump. It also helps to take a warm shower or lay warm towels on your breasts to promote milk flow. If the feeling of engorgement becomes too overbearing, put cold packs on your breasts.

You May Experience Swelling

Many women experience swelling in their hands, feet, and face during pregnancy due to the extra fluids in the body. It’ll take some time for this swelling to go away even after the baby is born but you can help relieve the swelling by lying on your left side when resting or sleeping, putting your feet up, drinking plenty of water, and keeping cool. 

Your Hair May Start To Thin

You may have noticed that your hair probably grew thicker and fuller during pregnancy. This happens as a result of the high levels of hormones in your body causing you to lose less hair during pregnancy. After your baby is born, you may notice that your hair has started to thin or you may even lose hair. Hair loss usually stops within 6 months of giving birth and you should return to your normal hair fullness within a year. Just make sure to eat a nutritious diet as the nutrients in fruits and vegetables can help protect and restore your hair and be gentle with your hair. No tight ponytails or sleeping in rollers all night; they can put stress on your hair and pull it at the scalp.

You May Notice Changes In Your Skin

You may notice stretch marks on your body from where your skin stretched to accommodate the pregnancy and they generally fade over time. You can use creams or lotions that are specifically formulated to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. 

It May Be Hard To Sit

Movement may be difficult in the first few days after giving birth and sitting down may not provide much relief. Once you have stopped bleeding, full-body baths should help as the heat therapy a bath provides helps to promote tissue health. Until you get to that point, we recommend sitz baths as they bring heat and circulation to the tissue and can help to speed up the healing process and reduce scar tissue. 

You may also find that you have trouble with bowel movements. This can happen for a few days after giving birth. To relieve the pain caused by constipation, make sure to eat foods that are high in fiber, omega 3s, and magnesium as they can help to soften stools. Make sure you are also drinking lots of water.

You May Get Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen, painful veins in and around the anus that may bleed or hurt. They are common during and after pregnancy. You can relieve the pain associated with hemorrhoids by soaking in a warm bath or asking your provider about over-the-counter medications that can help with the pain.

How to Avoid Birth Defects During Pregnancy

How to Avoid Birth Defects During Pregnancy

Now that you’ve found out you are pregnant (congratulations!), you probably are making every effort to ensure that you give birth to the healthiest baby possible. While not all birth defects can be prevented, women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by maintaining healthy conditions and adopting healthy habits before becoming pregnant that she carries into the pregnancy. 

Before moving on, let’s clarify what a birth defect is. Birth defects are problems that occur during the baby’s development during pregnancy. Birth defects can affect different aspects of the child including their brain function and development, physical appearance, and organ function. Most defects occur during the first trimester which is why it’s so important to develop healthy habits prior to becoming pregnant.

What causes birth defects?

There are some birth defects whose exact cause is unknown but there are certain birth defects where the result in the fetus developing improperly can be determined by the following factors:

  • Genetic mutations
  • Smoking while pregnant
  • Consuming alcohol while pregnant
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Mother of an older age
  • Using illegal drugs
  • Obesity of the mother
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Inadequate prenatal care

Many defects can be identified during pregnancy with prenatal ultrasounds. If your OBGYN sees something of concern that could mean an issue with your baby’s development, they’ll order additional screening. 

Taking steps to prevent birth defects

While again, not all birth defects can be prevented, there are some steps women can take during pregnancy to reduce their risk.

Step #1: Do not smoke, drink, or do drugs

Drinking alcohol, smoking, and using illegal drugs can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, premature birth, stillbirth, cleft lip, sudden infant death syndrome, brain damage, low birth weight, or neonatal abstinence syndrome. 

Step #2: Look for solutions to existing health problems

If you’ve previously been diagnosed with a chronic health condition including diabetes, epilepsy, high blood pressure, or HIV, speak to your doctor about managing that condition during your pregnancy. These conditions can raise your risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, birth defects, or premature birth. 

Step #3: Maintain a healthy body weight

There seems to be the common thinking that when a woman is pregnant, she is now eating for two. And while this may be true, there is no reason she should double the amount of food she eats. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can lead to complications including high blood pressure and gestational diabetes and it can increase the likelihood that your child will develop diabetes during childhood. 

Step #4: Eat healthy

In addition to maintaining a healthy body weight, now is the best time to make sure you are eating foods with high nutritional value. Foods that are high in folate like leafy green vegetables, avocado, and brussel sprouts are great because folate is essential in developing the red blood cells and preventing birth defects. For a list of foods to avoid during pregnancy, check out our blog post.  

Step #5: Stay hydrated

Babies receive nutrients through the amniotic fluid during pregnancy which is essential to the healthy development of the baby’s lungs and digestive system. The mother must stay hydrated in order to ensure there is an adequate amount of amniotic fluid surrounding her baby.

Step #6: Exercise

Regular exercise throughout pregnancy is essential to maintaining a healthy weight and decreasing the mother’s risk of developing gestational diabetes. Women should, however, speak to their OBGYN to ensure they are leading an active lifestyle while making modifications to keep the baby safe. 

Step #7: Get adequate prenatal care

As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, you should schedule an appointment with your OBGYN with the first prenatal visit falling around eight weeks after your missed period.

Can STDs Cause Infertility?

Can STDs Cause Infertility?

Finding out that you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) can come with a host of overwhelming emotions including surprise, anger, and fear and even more questions. You wonder if it’s curable or how it will affect your life. You worry about having to tell future sexual partners or how it might affect your plan to have children someday if that is your hope. Whether or not it will affect your fertility depends on your condition as well as how early you detect it. 

Which STDs can cause infertility?

The problem is that some STDs don’t come with identifiable symptoms so people can live with them for years without being aware of them. This increases the risk of developing complications like infertility or infecting future sex partners. Early detection is the best way to avoid such risk as infertility caused by STDs is highly preventable.

Chlamydia

This is one of the most common STDs. On its own, the disease doesn’t cause infertility, however 40% of women with chlamydia develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID affects the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries, often leading the woman to become infertile. 

Chlamydia is one of the STDs that doesn’t have symptoms so most women that have it are unaware that they do. In some rare cases, a woman may experience signs of the infection including unusual vaginal discharge, a burning sensation while urinating, and painful sex. 

Fortunately, chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics which is why it is so critical that it is caught and treated early.

Gonorrhea

Here is another example of an STD that rarely shows symptoms. People who do show symptoms may experience spotting between periods, burning while urinating, or vaginal discharge that is white, yellow, or green. The infection can affect the urethra and cervix.

Gonorrhea can also be treated with antibiotics but, if left untreated, it can spread to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. It can cause the fallopian tubes to scar, making it difficult for the sperm to reach and fertilize the egg and also increasing the possibility of the person getting pelvic inflammatory disease. 

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is the most common STD in the US. This is a group of more than 150 viruses, some of which can lead to cancer of the reproductive organs. Most people don’t have symptoms which is why it’s so important that you are scheduling annual exams with your OBGYN. Detecting HPV early can decrease the risk of it developing into cancer of the vulva or cervix which can cause infertility.

Preventing infertility caused by STDs

Since STDs can remain in the body for years without ever showing signs, all sexually active women should have annual screenings where they are tested for STDs.

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